Despite opposition by Waterkeepers Florida and many other people and organizations, last Friday U.S. EPA gave a big present to Florida developers, by approving FDEP’s assumption of Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA announcement says “The action formally transfers permitting authority under CWA Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to the State of Florida for a broad range of water resources within the State.” It neglects to mention that almost all of the Suwannee River Basin got left out, including the middle and upper Suwannee River, and the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and New Rivers, as well as the Withlacoochee South River basin.
FDEP got around to releasing a Draft Retained Waters Screening Tool a few weeks ago, after the public comment period. It seems to confirm what we already deciphered from FDEP’s assumption documents: only part of the Lower Suwannee River and Estuary, ditto the lower Withlacoochee South River, end up being covered by either USACE or FDEP. The vast majority of the Suwannee River Basin fell through the cracks. Of course, we and WKFL and many others will not stop working for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. About time for a Bill of Rights for Nature, too. Continue reading